In the vast majority of industries, you need to tender to win work. Tendering is the backbone of competitive business. And yet in so many organisations what it entails is vastly underestimated or simply misunderstood.
For some it is a marketing function. Tenderers are the people that make proposals “look pretty” (cue the corresponding condescending tone) and add “key messages” (plucked from thin air). For some it is a coordination function. Tenderers are the people that bring all the cut and pasted information from the last 10 proposals and cobble it together into one document just in time for the submission deadline. For some it is “all about the price”, the only way to win to present to the client the lowest cost possible. For some it is a sales function. “Sell, sell, sell” – substance be damned.
The truth is that tendering is an art form. It is a complex and multi-skilled exercise that deserves far greater recognition for its contribution to thriving businesses and industries.
So, what does this discipline really involve?
Relationships. The ability to forge sustainable mutually beneficial and influential relationships with customers. Tenderers need to understand and empathise with others, build rapport, engage over the long term, and derive a genuine understanding of what drives the customer.
Leadership. The skills to lead, support and encourage a team under immense pressure. Tenderers need to promote the creativity and innovation required to develop a differentiated solution or offer.
Strategy. The ability to analyse the needs of a client and the drivers of key decision makers and influencers. Tenderers then make the decisions and take the actions required to reflect that analysis in a compelling solution or offer.
Collaboration. A knowledge of human dynamics that underpin interaction. Tenderers need to drive collaboration to get the best from the team - managers, subject matter experts, consultants, and colleagues alike.
Interface. An approach that strikes a fine balance between the lessons, experience, knowledge, and expertise of the business development, tendering, technical and operational functions of a business. A tender’s success is determined by this interface.
Management. Acknowledgement that a tender is in and of itself a project and needs to be planned and managed as one. A tender has a cycle from initiation to closure. Time, Scope, Cost, Quality - all features of tender that need to be effectively managed.
Facilitation. The skills to navigate varied opinions and inputs and to guide discussions and decision making. Tenderers must facilitate a team to determine, develop and refine a compelling solution or offer in an extremely limited timeframe.
Communication. The ability to effectively communicate and present a solution to a customer. A tender is a carefully crafted story applying a myriad of verbal, written and visual tools.
Empathy. At its heart tendering is an exercise in empathy. It is the foundation to responding to a customer’s needs, managing an effective team, obtaining inputs from others, and communicating a solution or offer.
It’s time for many businesses to view tendering as more than an add on to business as usual. Tenders that win require a significant investment of time, money, and effort. But most importantly, they require committed resources with a finely honed multi-faceted set skills and competencies.
And the benefits of recognising tendering as an art form? Sustainable customer relationships. Increased competitiveness. Strategic, compliant, and compelling submissions. Responsive committed resources. And – winning more work!
Deborah Mazoudier is the Founder of Tender Plus Skills (RTO 45317) which offers the first and only nationally accredited qualification in this niche field – the 10667NAT Diploma of Business Development and Tendering. For further information, please visit www.tenderplusskills.edu.au.